Dickie Roberts, Former Child Star
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Sam Weisman
scr Fred Wolf, David Spade
with David Spade, Mary McCormack, Jon Lovitz, Alyssa Milano, Scott Terra, Jenna Boyd, Craig Bierko, Rob Reiner, Edie McClurg, Leif Garrett, Danny Bonaduce, Dustin Diamond, Tom Arnold, Barry Williams, Corey Feldman, Brendan Fraser
release US 5.Sep.03, UK 20.Feb.04
03/US 1h39

Learn from the master: Terra, Spade and Boyd

spade mccormack lovitz

Willie Aames, Todd Bridges, Gary Coleman, Jeff Conaway, Tony Dow, Corey Haim, Florence Henderson, Chris Knight, Emmanuel Lewis, Barry Livingston, Mike Lookinland, Eddie Mekka, Maureen McCormick, Jeremy Miller, Erin Moran, Jay North, Ron Palillo, Butch Patrick, Adam Rich, Rodney Allen Rippy, Doris Roberts, Marion Ross, Charlene Tilton, Dick Van Patten

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Fans of 1970s American family sitcoms (and even That '70s Show) will get a kick out of this irreverent jumble of period pop culture icons. And everyone else may enjoy the amusing examination of fame ... merged with a rather over-sweet ode to family values.

Dickie Roberts (Spade) longs to rekindle his childhood fame as a member of The Glimmer Gang (a Brady Bunch knock-off); it's not the money he wants, but rather the affection of the viewing public. So when he hears that Rob Reiner is casting a new film, he goes after the role to the extent that he hires a suburban Los Angeles family (soccer mom McCormack, workaholic dad Bierko, bright-spark kids Terra and Boyd) to teach him how to act like a normal person. Of course, hilarity ensues as his spoiled ways rub off on his hosts ... but they also teach each other a few things.

If the filmmakers had resisted the urge to make it so adorable and meaningful, this could have been a terrific comedy. But they continually undercut the nastiness with moments of cute emotion that strangle the film at birth. That said, the cast is good at balancing their schizophrenic characters somewhere near the real world. And there are so many hysterically funny bits that it's still worth seeing as a spot-the-reference exercise. Although with such a huge number of real child stars to squeeze in several actors are badly wasted (most notably Lovitz as Dickie's desperate agent).

Director Weisman does best when he sticks to high-energy slapstick and cruel humour. The opening E! True Hollywood Story motif sets things up cleverly, and there are some terrific spoof sequences such as Dickie's Celebrity Smackdown with Emmanuelle Lewis and a jaw-dropping Britney-wannabe cheerleading audition. The film's also worth seeing for the way it mercilessly makes fun of the Hollywood quest for fame. But all of this gets seriously bogged down in all that syrupy sentiment. And it's probably somewhat hard-going if you don't get the references, or recognise the faces (and voices!) in the brilliant closing credits sequence.

cert 12 themes, language, innuendo 15.Jan.04

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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall